Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I like being warm!

We had a good fall in 2008. As we were packing up the house in Nipawin we commented several times how lucky we were to get such an open fall since we had to be in Saskatchewan so late in the year. By the time we headed east in December the weather was back closer to normal and it went downhill from there. Florida had an unusually cold winter - so cold in fact that we ate outdoors less than 10 times in the two months we were there and too cold for either of us to think seriously about doing any water activities. We had both my ski and Marilyn's board with us and I made it out to Lucky Lowe's one day but it was just too cold to think about going in the water. The day I was at Lucky's there were four die-hards visiting from Ontario and Quebec. They were skiing but it was painful to watch. I think the air temps were maybe into the 60's but the water was definitely still in the low 50's.

When we got to Texas and Arizona it was starting to warm up but it still was never "hot". Between wind blowing and sun not shining we never had a really warm day and nothing changed when we got back to Saskatchewan in May.

With all that cold behind us being part of the BC heat wave of 2009 isn't that hard to take. In fact its pretty sweet. Some little chickie on the TV just said that this heatwave is in the top 3 since they started keeping records for the lower mainland. They're all whining out here about how hot it is and how bad the air quality is and on and on and on. And I'm loving it.

Our AC isn't perfect. In fact it isn't even good. But it blows a bit of cooler air and helps out a bit during the day. We run the ceiling fan to blow some hot air outside and we spend the late afternoon in our outdoor living room. Our wonderful new awning provides shade for the curbside windows (and makes me want awnings on the roadside as well but that's a whole 'nuther story). Life is good here on the left coast but so far nobody has been by with our medical marijuana. Maybe that only comes once we establish residency - I still haven't mustered up enough courage to deal with the driver's licencing ordeal.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Drunk in B.C.

.......... is not very bloody likely. My gawd the booze is expensive out here. I can see we'll be running it back from Alberta at every opportunity. Today we had to make a cherry run. Cherries are an endangered species around our place andr we pretty well have to go for cherries every other day. While SWMBO was picking up cherries I went into a supposedly discount liquor store for a couple dozen Rickards Red. 55 bux later I walked out! That's over 2 bux a bottle. I can remember when you could buy bottles in the bar for less than that. And that price included some kind of a chair and a gap toothed bar wench to serve you.

Jim & Judy passed through here today on their way to Lloydminster to see Jim's parents. Judy is also making a run to P.A. to see the antique aunt. At 102 and almost a month Anne continues to defy logic. They thought she was a goner last January but she fooled everybody & my money is on her seeing 105. After her 100th birthday party she asked Marilyn when the next big bash was and she told her 105 so that's what I'm betting on.

The smoke from the fires north of Kelowna has been rolling in here every morning. Today when we drove into Chilliwack the whole valley was under a grey haze. Even the closest mountain ranges were obscured in the smoke and the farther away ones were almost invisible. Its desperately dry here too so this area could go up at any time but at least here there is irrigation in the valley so there are some areas to escape to and the valley is pretty wide so it provides some natural fire protection. Alberta and B.C. have to be at serious risk of one big conflagration. Too many years of pine beetles have left wide swaths of dead pine trees just waiting to go up in flames. I talked to Bryan about the fires up at Kelowna and he said when the fire hits one of those beetle-kill trees the whole tree goes up like a torch.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Too pretty for words

We were pretty worried about leaving Whispering Pines. We've spent so many wonderful summers there. The whole area is just plain beautiful and we love the river for skiing and boarding in June and July. So coming out here the big risk was the unknown parks and finding a place to recreate. But we've pretty well scored a home run on both counts.

I wasn't wild about the Thousand Trails campground at Cultus Lake. It was OK but not even close to the quality of the two other TT campgrounds we have visited so far. And Cultus Lake was a big disappointment. Its pretty but it gets absolutely thrashed by weekend warriors and its really not big enough for more than about 4 or 5 boats to be on it without working it into a major frenzy.

The Holiday Trails campground at Bridal Falls however is another matter altogether. This place is seriously beautiful. We've lucked into a particularly large site which has room for the boat and truck and still leaves a guest parking spot. All of the sites have living privacy screens of carefully trimmed cedars. The campground is built onto the side of the mountain that Bridal Falls flows out of. That gives the sites vertical separation as well. We're near the back row so we don't hear any noise from the highway but even when I take Jorgito for his walk I don't notice a great difference in the noise levels as I approach the highway. I think a large part of that is due to the elevation of the campground relative to the highway.

During and after the move from Thousand Trails I spent a considerable amount of time doing bus repairs. We've had a lot of starter grief since we bought the bus. I think we're on #5 now in five years but the first 4 only lasted about 18 months in total and one of those puked in about 10 days. The one we are using now is an MT39 Delco gear reduction unit and it has been great by comparison to its predecessors. For the last month however I have been worried about it too. Occasionally when I turn the key to start nothing happens. Now from the driver's compartment its hard to say whether "nothing" is accurate because you certainly can't hear the solenoid click even when it is working. So in this case "nothing" means that the engine doesn't turn over for some reason.

Over time I have eliminated the front end of the bus (switch and relay) as potential causes for the problem. Its been a real bear to troubleshoot however because it is intermittent. There are a lot of solenoids and relays involved to get the starter to roll over but I had zeroed in on the solenoid mounted to the starter and was pretty certain it was somehow involved. I even pulled the starter while we were at Cultus Lake and looked for loose connections. I found a couple that might have been a little loose, tightened them and put everything back together but I didn't have enough tools to actually pull the solenoid. I was hoping I could nurse it back to Saskatoon and Quint's terrorist starter fixers but such was not to be. The morning we left Thousand Trails I got nothing but unlike previous occasions where a couple more tries would always yield a start, this time no matter how many times I tried I still got nothing.

So back under the engine I crawled and pulled the starter. The MT39 series are much smaller than the old 42MT starters but they are still heavy and awkward. Once I got the starter loose I left it connected to the cables and tried it from the rear switch. It was immediately apparent that the starter solenoid was drawing so heavily that it was tripping the breaker on the circuit that energizes it. So that meant that at the very least I needed to replace the solenoid and I was lucky enough to find an exceptional starter shop in Chilliwack where they don't just throw parts at a problem but can actually fix things. The bus started up right away with the new solenoid but then I had a couple of hard starts once it was warmed up. I'm hoping those were caused by a cube relay that got cooked by the heavy draw on the dying solenoid but I won't know until I have a chance to run it again on a really hot day. Some of that electronic crap likes to fail under heat and work fine when its cold so it is hard for an electronic piker such as myself to troubleshoot it. If it fails completely I can probably find where it has failed but when its just threatening to fail I'm not much use.

Some of you may be wondering about the outcome of the pink toenails. Probably most of you don't care to know but Jorgito's neck seems to have healed up completely. The last of the little pink rubber nails disappeared in the last week. He worked diligently at them for the first couple of weeks after we put them on but only managed to pull 2 or 3 off. That also seemed to keep his attention off his neck. I think we might have replaced a couple of them but no more than 2. All in all I'd say they were a total success and we've still got about 25 left - enough to do 2 more recurrences if necessary. It seems that treating him for fleas cured his auto-immune disease. Who'd a thunk it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Getting to know our way around

Today we found an awesome spot to ski and board. And NO, I'm not going to post the co-ordinates here. I'd sooner post the co-ordinates for one of our favorite fishing holes than post this spot. Good water is hard to find. OK - so you thought I was kidding - this whole channel is a great spot to fish for walleye depending on the water level. Its not the absolute best spot in that area but its pretty damn close. But no way am I telling you where to go for good water in the lower mainland.

Having found good water we are a lot more comfortable deciding to stay in this area for the long term. We were really worried how we would adjust to losing this stretch of the Shuswap River to ski on. Cultus Lake is definitely not a ski lake in the summer anyway. Its a gong show out there from 8:00 AM until dark and they keep the gates locked until 8:00 AM so you can't go any earlier than that.

Tomorrow we move up the road to Bridal Falls and the first of our Holiday Trails membership parks. It won't be any hardship to come back to this place but it will be fun to see what waits for us at Bridal Falls. We've driven by it many times on the highway and I always thought it looked like a really special spot but I don't think we have ever even driven into the parking lot there.

Once we get moved we'll do some exploring up towards Harrison Lake as well. We've heard that there is good ski water up there because it is a little colder and the weekenders with their tubes don't like it as much. Today Marilyn is going to phone someone in the post office in Nipawin to see about getting our mail redirected from there. I tried to do that online but ran into some Canada Post stupidity so she is going to try it with a real live person on the phone. If that doesn't work it might have to wait until we are back in Saskatchewan.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mellow in Chilliwack

We're starting to feel like this is home. We got our address and I've almost learned it already:
105-9-45905 Yale Road
Chilliwack, BC V.....

I never can remember the damn postal code. V2P 8E6 .. good thing I keep it in my pocket.

We've been over to Abbotsford a couple of times but we have figured out how to do that without having to go out onto the parking lot called #1 highway. "Numero uno" as CJ said repeatedly a couple of years ago is pretty congested this far down. Yesterday I was cruising along taking my time on the service road north of the highway when I realized that I was fairly blazing past the traffic which was almost at a standstill on the highway. And that was maybe 2:30 in the afternoon.

We found the Fraser Valley Waterski Club and I went for a rip behind their club boat, a 2009 Response LXI. That's a slightly longer heavier version of our boat - and of course 10 years newer. For a family that doesn't own a boat the club membership is a hell of a deal. Its pretty tempting even for us. Cultus Lake, where we are right now, is pretty and I'm sure it is much less crowded when the kids are in school. Right now its a gong show on the water. Lakes and boats are kind of the last bastion of a lawless frontier where everybody can do their own thing, go as fast as they like and go wherever they like. In theory there is some law on the water and some rules to abide by but probably 75% of the people on the lake on any given day in July and August haven't a clue what those laws consist of and likely half of that number would tell you that there weren't any laws. That's the big appeal of the waterski club - a location where idiots are banned and you can't drive the boat unless you are a member. We won't rush into it this year because we have to be back in SK for much of August but I think its high on the list for 2010.

Marilyn has been off the water for a few days now. She rattled her gourd on a wake the last time out and appears to have dislodged something in one of her eyes. We went to see a Dr. about it but he didn't think it was any big deal, just needs time to settle down again. I've tried to convince her that it needs further shaking but so far she hasn't gone back on the water.

Father's situation hasn't changed. For a while they were moving him pretty well on a daily basis but lately he has been stuck in one room. One of his overnight guests when they were moving him so much apparently developed one of those resistant infections that hospitals are lamentably becoming famous for. That prompted them to put father into some kind of mini-quarantine. Apparently they have degrees of quarantine because Diane has seen higher security protocols than what he is being subjected to but it still means that it is more difficult for people to visit him and he is pretty lonely. It must be just over a month since he went into the hospital now - it seems longer.

The fatal flaw in the Canadian healthcare system is that it has no market sensitivity to demand. If/when father gets accepted into the public system it will cost him roughly $1500 per month for his care. He can buy care in the private system for around $4000 per month and he can afford that. The problem is finding private care that can handle his needs. As a society we need to figure out how to allow him to buy the care that he needs so that additional $2500 per month (4000-1500) can stimulate the system to create new beds. We need to get our heads past the notion that everybody is entitled to equal treatment and start talking about equitable treatment. "Equal" treatment presumes that everyone has the same needs and abilities and therefore deserves identical access. "Equitable" treatment could establish a baseline and provide enhanced treatment based on ability to pay. Until we get there we are doomed to put our parents in storage in places like the Pasqua hospital which is unfair to the inmates but more importantly it drags down the level of acute care that the hospital can offer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Have you driven a Ford lately?

I'm thinking maybe quality wasn't Job 1 or at least this particular feature wasn't one of Ford's better ideas. When we left Airdrie Marilyn noticed that she didn't have a signal light on the right rear on the Exploder. In my usual fashion I procrastinated dealing with it until this afternoon. Procrastination isn't always bad though because by the time we got here I had ruled out the connector on the cubevan and had zeroed in on the light assembly on the truck. That wasn't all that difficult because I happened to notice that we didn't have a signal light even when the truck was being used by itself.

So today I tore it apart and it didn't take long to figure out what was going on. If you look closely at the picture you can see a couple of little wires that have rotted themselves away from the little clip on ends that are supposed to attach them to some pissy little diode affair which in turn attaches to the light assembly. Those little crimp on ends are notorious for corrosion failure which would be why they are never used by OEMs. Apparently in this case they were used and closer inspection of the picture will reveal why. This truck apparently has a wiring harness intended for the European market where they have 3 light assemblies rather than the 2 light assemblies we use here (we combine brake/signal lights - they have separate brake, signal & tail light filaments). Evidently the Ford bean counters must have figured out that they could save $2.37 (or less) per vehicle by cobbling together the boogy setup in the picture in order to avoid using a 3-light assembly. Sheeeeesh. Don't worry about the fact that this setup is guaranteed to rot out. I can only imagine how fast they rot out in climates more conducive to rust. This truck has spent most of its life in a very dry climate and it rotted out in 4 years. They must have been failing under warranty in more moist climates.
This may very well be the last Ford I ever own. Make that the last North American vehicle I ever own. I've been a vehement advocate of a buy North American attitude all my vehicle buying life but enough is enough. GM & Chrysler deserved to go broke. If the government had any brains they would have let them disappear. How Ford managed to avoid bankruptcy is a complete mystery to me but I suspect we haven't heard the last of that one either. When I look into my crystal ball I see an old diesel Mercedes in our future.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Frieda's vegetable soup and silverware

The big treat for us when we hit fresh young vegetables is Marilyn's mother's special spring vegetable soup. Everything has to be young and fresh - don't try this from the crap in the supermarket. You need little carrots that still have the dirt on them, baby beans with their tops and tails still on, peas that you have to peel yourself and potatoes with that tissue paper skin that they get fresh out of the ground when they are still young. I had to scrape the potatoes last night because they were organic crap - in this land of the granola crunchers that's about all we can find so they had a lot of scab on them because the eco-freaks don't know about disease management. Other than cleaning the scab off the spuds you want to leave everything as natural as possible to get all that sweet spring flavour.

  • cube the potatoes into about 3/4 or 5/8 inch cubes and start them boiling but just barely cover them with water
  • start sauteeing some chopped green onions but be careful not to burn them - they should be just barely showing some brown when you add them
  • add the carrots next in about 5/8 or 3/4 inch pieces
  • top and tail the beans and cut them into the soup, you should have the peas shelled already so you can add them at the same time
  • add water as necessary but don't get carried away because you are going to add cream at the end
  • chuck the sauteed onions in whenever they are ready
  • use as much chopped dill as you want for flavour. This is a Marilyn addition and we like a lot of dill with new potatoes - Frieda's original recipe didn't include dill so suit yourself.
  • when the potatoes are cooked mix a flour paste to thicken the broth slightly
  • when you are ready to serve add creammilk
  • obviously salt and pepper to taste - I like a lot of fresh ground pepper on it

Here's a recipe you won't find in your average cookbook.
  • you'll need an aluminum foil pan or just a piece of aluminum foil
  • mix equal parts salt & baking soda - roughly 3 tbsp of each to do the pile of silver in the photo - dissolve in some water.
  • put the foil in the bottom of the sink with the silver on top of it or put the silver in the foil pan and put the whole works in the sink.
  • cover the silver with hot water from the tap
  • mix the dissolved salt and baking soda into the water with the silverware
  • pour a kettle of boiling water over the whole works and watch the tarnish disappear before your eyes.

If the silverware is really bad you may need to wash it first to clean it up so the salt and soda can get at the tarnish. We use our silver every day so all Marilyn does is pull it out of the drawer and let the chemistry go to work. For those of you who are worried that some mysterious chemical reaction is going to destroy your silverware consider this: would you rather abrade the tarnish off along with some of the underlying silver using a conventional silver cleaner or would you rather use chemistry to remove only the tarnish?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mark O'Reilly this one's for you

We've had some issues getting our awning to work properly but its all good now. After Marlan & I worked on it at Whispering Pines it was extended until we left Mara and it has been out ever since we got here. I've actually even sort of stopped worrying about it when we leave - I've got it tied down and it seems pretty stable. This campground is extremely well sheltered but this morning the wind was up pretty good and the awning came through that just fine.

This afternoon we drove over to Abbotsford in search of a U-Pick. We found a raspberry patch with the most amazing huge berries. They were so thick on the canes that you could actually see the red in the rows from about 150 yards away. We picked way more raspberries than we should have because it was just such easy picking and then we gorged ourselves on about 2 quarts of them on the way home. Which barely put a dent in what we had picked. On the way home it started raining and by the time we got back to camp it was raining pretty hard. This was the first time I have been able to stand under my awning and watch it rain.

Back in the days B.A. (before awning) when the O'Reilly and Sparrow families still came to Mara Mark used to sit under his awning on those rare rainy mornings that we would sometimes get. He would drink his coffee, read the local newsrag and taunt me about the fact that we didn't have an awning. "Hey Evans - what's it like over there under the awning. Ooops - forgot - you don't have one do you?" would ring out over the whole campground. Well today I got to watch the water drip off the awning while I stayed dry and life was good. It would be better if Mark was here so I could enjoy the dryness with him but its pretty damn good anyway.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Moving to BC

We're not quite tree-hugging, granola crunching, left coast hippies yet but we are getting closer. Today we got an official BC address. Tomorrow I expect somebody to drop by with our supply of medical marijuana. We still have to convince Canada Post to redirect our mail to here which will no doubt turn into an ordeal. Earlier this week Canada Post asked for a Power of Attorney from our dead mother in order for my sister to deal with them. The limits of the collective stupidity of that institution are hard to fathom. There must be some critical mass of stupid past which it becomes self sustaining and Canada Post has clearly passed that point.

Yesterday we left Whispering Pines - with great difficulty. We've been going there for so long that it was really hard to leave. That was compounded by the shower of gifts we received as we were leaving. We took several people wakeboarding and they felt compelled to repay us with alcohol. We'll cope.

The night before we left was a classic Whispering Pines evening. Gil and Larry's cousin was there. He's some kind of musical prodigy who presently teaches music somewhere. Gil and Larry are pretty musical themselves but this guy was off the scale. He played guitar several times during the week we overlapped with his visit. On the last night we were there Ron Watson showed up with his keyboard and the two of them put on a tremedous show around the campfire. That went well into the night so we weren't too lively yesterday morning. That in turn meant we were pretty late getting to Chilliwack but we got settled in to the Thousand Trails campground before dark and then went back into town for a little reconnaissance and some groceries. Its a pretty cute little town and very green. Marilyn is going on and on about the ferns and general green-ness.

The weather hasn't been great since we got here so we haven't been in any big rush to get on the lake. The little lake here looks like it probably gets thoroughly thrashed on the weekends during the summer. There are a lot of people that hang out here between cabins and campgrounds. If they all end up on the lake on the weekend there won't be an undisturbed drop of water to be found anywhere.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A life wasted

The news this morning is one drawn out tribute to Michael. Whatever you think of the freakshow that his life turned into, it is impossible to deny his talent. The tragedy of his life is that he allowed his personal peccadilloes to overwhelm his obvious and undeniable musical and entertaining genius.

The contrast between Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett who died the same day is telling. Farrah took a limited amount of talent, combined it with a life well lived and made the most of what she had. Michael took a surfeit of talent, combined it with a life of excess and squandered the gift he was given.

Rest well Michael - some of us will miss you less than others.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rolling on the river

Later this week we will move to Chilliwack. We're really looking forward to the new adventure, discovering how the Thousand Trails and Holiday Trails camp systems work, meeting new people and discovering new terrain. If anything makes us regret leaving here it will be the Shuswap River. We have so much fun on the river it is hard to imagine that we won't miss it terribly. The only thing that is making it at all easier is the fact that the water level is very low this summer. Typically the river level will drop at least 10 feet between mid June and late August. Right now we can travel from Mara Lake all the way to the Grindrod bar but by early August it will be dangerous to go even half that distance. Last year we left the first week in August but even by then we were clipping the prop on rocks on the river bottom. I spent a couple of hours this spring straightening the prop and it should be tuned and balanced professionally.

This morning we hit the water again with Marlan and Janine Rushton. Marlan only got to ride last summer during the time he spent with us so he was making the most of his time today in case it doesn't happen again this summer. Janine turned into a fairly regular rider while Marlan was out this year. She's does really well - we've had her out with us before. We always make sure to get her mother out as well. Running a campground is all consuming for the Rushtons. This year Bernie is commuting between here and his regular job in Drayton Valley so the load on Sharon is even greater when he is "out". We figure that makes it all the more important for us to get Sharon away for a break and she seems to enjoy it too.

From Summer 2009

This afternoon Marlan left to return to Medicine Hat but he is taking the long way round. When the kids were little we used to spend time in the Kootenay Valley. Marlan will be taking a trip down memory lane as he wanders through the interior of BC from Vernon to Nakusp, south to New Denver, over the highway of ghosts to Kaslo, across Kootenay Lake from Balfour to Riondel on the ferry, down the lake to Creston and then out through the Crowsnest Pass.

From Summer 2009

The videos aren't very good quality but they do show a bit of our wonderful river.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vitamin I

We've been hitting the river hard the past couple of days. Marlan arrived here late in the day on the 30th. There were so few people here at the end of June that we were able to ride on the lake but starting today we had to spend our time on the river. The tourists have arrived.

Yesterday we went for a quick ride on the lake and river. Then we headed down to Kelowna to celebrate Dan's (Marilyn's brother) 60th birthday. We stopped in at her other brother's place in Winfield and gave Fred some of the stuff that we had saved from the house. He let us pick fresh cherries from one of the trees in his back yard. That would be a serious plus about living out here - fresh raspberries and cherries. After the party we hustled back to Whispering Pines, loaded up Sharon and her kids and headed into town on the water to watch the Canada Day fireworks.

The water is finally starting to warm up but I still wore my drysuit today. Marlan thinks we are sissies but I think he is just too embarassed to ask to wear the drysuit. Marilyn is doing the sport of fat old broads and loving every minute of it. Advil should sponsor the ski tour. After a hard day on the water about 4 Advil or the generic equivalent is a pretty good plan if us old guys want to ski again in the morning.

Today Marlan & I took the awning down and repaired it again. Clifford gave us a free awning but it hasn't ended up being entirely free. I haven't added up everything that I have in it but it is somewhere north of $600 now. When I ordered the replacement arm that I had shipped to Verde Valley I also ordered an idler end for the roller. It was sticky from the start but we were making it work. It finally gave up the ghost at Airdrie and in the process of discovering that it was dead I managed to pull off the strap that unrolls the awning. That meant that it was a little challenging to unroll it today and then after we got the mechanical part drilled out and the new one rivetted in I had to get out the needle & thread. It all appears to be working well now and it sure is nice to have an awning. Too bad Mark isn't here so I could stand under it and gloat.